Do not allow a vacation to be ruined by becoming the victim of a scam that is targeted at tourists. Unscrupulous individuals all around the world take the opportunity to exploit tourists on vacation when their guard is down. The best form of protection in these situations is to be forewarned. There is no need to be paranoid but in general, just have situational awareness e.g. who is trying to get too near you or trying to distract you. I will be sharing some tips on how to protect yourselves from a number of common travel scams around the world.
Secure your Checked-in Luggage
From the beginning of the vacation, develop good security habits. If taking a plane, do not place valuables in your checked baggage. Unfortunately, thefts from luggage committed by baggage handlers are surprisingly common. Don’t make it easy for the thieves. Use well-constructed baggage that is strong enough to contain your belongings without over filling, and do not pack irreplaceable items. Luggage padlocks provide an extra deterrent to thieves.
Know the Local Taxi Culture
Beware the over-friendly cab driver, as there is often a catch. Sourcing taxis close to tourist hot spots such as airports, train stations or museums increases the chances of being scammed. Before accepting a ride, check if there is a minimum fare. Ensure that the meter is set correctly for the time of day (not charging the higher night rate for example) and keep an eye on it throughout the trip to see that it is not running excessively fast. Do not accept a ride with any cab driver who says that the meter is broken. Make a note of the cab driver’s number, registration and company name, just in case any problems arise. Get familiar with the local currency and don’t get flustered by impatient drivers. Be sure the correct change is received as many scams exploit tourists’ ignorance of foreign currency. We had experienced one such taxi scam ourselves at Budapest, Hungary – read the guidebooks; if they advise you to call ahead, do so.
American tourist destinations such as New Orleans, Atlantic City and Las Vegas are known to have taxi scam problems. Las Vegas in particular is known for a scam where cab drivers claim to be in such a hurry that they drive away with passenger’s luggage still in the trunk. With so many jaw-droppingly impressive hotels in Sin City, such as the Bellagio Las Vegas, guests could be forgiven for being momentarily distracted as they step out of the cab. Remember, if the driver seems to be in a real hurry, check the trunk is empty before he leaves. Again, make a note of the cab’s details if at all suspicious.
Criminals use methods of distraction in order to steal from their victims. Be wary of people fainting, spilling things, arguments breaking out or begging children clustering around – all known distraction tactics. Whilst the victim’s attention is elsewhere wallets or bags are stolen. Make life difficult for pickpockets by keeping wallets close to your body (money belts work well but wear them concealed beneath clothing). Use the safe in the hotel to store valuables and exercise caution when wearing expensive jewelry and watches in crowded areas.
Look out for Pizza Flier Scams
Do not fall for this scam where pizza fliers are slipped beneath the doors of hotel rooms. Unsuspecting guests order pizza, give their payment details over the phone and subsequently lose money. Check with the hotel reception first to check if fliers are authorized and endorsed.
Just say ‘No’
Beware of friendly approaches from strangers offering drinks or food. Increasing numbers of vacationers are falling prey to thieves who drug their victims and steal their belongings whilst they are incapacitated.